Lies on the lips of Patriarch Bartholomew

30 May 2019 14:55
Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Photo: UOJ Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople. Photo: UOJ

Speculations, excesses and outright lies in an interview with the Patriarch of Constantinople.

A few days ago, Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople gave an interview to the Bulgarian news agency BGNES, which was published in Ukraine in its most complete form by Glavcom. In this rather compact interview there is so much untruth that it is time to ask a question: why should His All-Holiness so overtly expose himself as lying through his teeth, if to speak franky?

Let us keep silent about the commandment of God "do not bear false witness". But after all, modern people are quite literate: they can open the Internet and check everything in a split second ... Why should the patriarch dishonor himself so much? Maybe, he is backed into a corner? Or does he rather open the “Overton window”?

Falsehood is evident in the very title of the interview (in the version of Glavcom): “The presence of the Moscow Patriarchate harms the interests of the Ukrainian nation”.

The head of Phanar forgot to clarify: is it the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine or in the world in general? Patriarch Bartholomew knows for certain that the Moscow Patriarchate in the institutional sense is not present in Ukraine at all. On the territory of Ukraine there is not a single body of the Moscow Patriarchate, not a single Moscow bishop, not a single synodal institution, or even a representative office.

This is evidenced by the statutory documents of the UOC and the ROC. Here is what the Statute of the UOC says about its status:

"1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is independent and self-governing in its administration and structure. 2. The supreme organs of ecclesiastical authority and administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are the Council of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, the Council of Bishops of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church and the Holy Synod of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, headed by the Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine. 3. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church has a communion with the rest Local Orthodox Churches through the Russian Orthodox Church.”

Similar provisions are contained in the Statute of the Russian Orthodox Church:

"1. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church is self-governing with the rights of broad autonomy. 2. The Ukrainian Orthodox Church was granted independence and self-governance in its management in accordance with the Definition of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church on October 25-27, 1990 "On the Ukrainian Orthodox Church". 3. In its life and activities, the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is guided by the Definition of the Bishops' Council of the Russian Orthodox Church of 1990 "On the Ukrainian Orthodox Church", the Letter of the Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia of 1990 and the Statute of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which is approved by its Primate and approved by the Patriarch of Moscow and All Rus. 4. The organs of ecclesiastical authority and administration of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church are its Council and Synod, headed by its Primate, bearing the title "His Beatitude Metropolitan of Kiev and All Ukraine". The administrative center of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is located in Kiev.”

Not a single Russian bishop, not even the Patriarch is a member of the governing bodies of the UOC and is not involved in its decision-making. On the contrary, the Ukrainian bishops are members of the supreme governing bodies of the Russian Orthodox Church: Local and Bishops' Councils, the Synod and the Supreme Church Council. Therefore, it is correct to speak not about the presence of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, but about the presence of the Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Russia.

“The presence of the Moscow Patriarchate harms the interests of the Ukrainian nation.”

Patriarch Bartholomew of Constantinople

True, the territory of Ukraine is included in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church. “The jurisdiction of the Russian Orthodox Church extends to Orthodox individuals residing in the canonical territory of the Russian Orthodox Church: in the Russian Federation, Ukraine, Belarus, the Republic of Moldova, the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Republic of Kazakhstan, the People’s Republic of China, the Kyrgyz Republic, the Republic of Latvia, the Republic of Lithuania, Mongolia, the Republic of Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, the Republic of Uzbekistan, the Republic of Estonia, Japan, as well as voluntarily affiliated to it Christians based elsewhere " (Chapter 1, Para. 3 of the ROC Statute).

Yet, there is no presence of the structures of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine, if this is what Patriarch Bartholomew is talking about. True though, with one very significant exception.

In Ukraine there is one Stavropegion of the Moscow Patriarch – the Holy Trinity Korets nunnery. Why did the monastery in Western Ukraine, which is rather small and little-known on a ROC scale, get in the direct control of the Patriarch of Moscow? The name of this reason is Filaret Denisenko, who, being the Metropolitan of Kiev in 1984, in order to please the communist authorities, decided to close this ancient monastery. Abbess of the monastery Natalia (Ilchuk) had to go to Moscow to bring the Kiev Metropolitan to justice, who closed the monasteries not in the 30s, under Stalin, and not in the 60s, under Khrushchev, but in 1984, when "perestroyka" and the liberalization of social life were looming over the horizon. It was then by order of the Moscow Patriarch Pimen that the only patriarchal Stavropegion emerged in Ukraine.

If the Patriarch of Constantinople uses the term “presence of the Moscow Patriarchate in Ukraine” in the sense that the Ukrainian Orthodox Church is present in Ukraine, then it turns out to be insanity: the interests of the Ukrainian nation are harmed by the fact that Ukraine has the Ukrainian Orthodox Church, which consists of Ukrainian citizens, Ukrainian priests and Ukrainian bishops, governed by the Ukrainian Primate, the Ukrainian Holy Synod and the Ukrainian Council of Bishops?

However, this is not the entire untruth in the title of the interview.

I wonder what meaning Patriarch Bartholomew puts into the term “Ukrainian nation”. According to the Constitution of Ukraine, this concept is a synonym for the concepts "people of Ukraine" and "citizens of Ukraine of all nationalities".

According to the last census of the population, more than 8 million ethnic Russians live in Ukraine, and according to surveys of 2016, made by not at all pro-Russian Razumkov Center, the Russian language is considered native by more than 27% of the population of Ukraine or more than 11 million people. The absolute majority of these people have a positive attitude towards Russia as a country (not to be confused with Russian political leadership), its people and its Church.

These people, as a rule, have kinship and friendship ties with the residents of Russia and maintain cultural and other humanitarian ties. How can the existence of the Moscow Patriarchate spoil their life?

Or, perhaps, Patriarch Bartholomew does not include these 11 million citizens of Ukraine in the concept of "Ukrainian nation"? It may be recalled that the UOC – even after the church raiding campaign – is the largest confession in Ukraine. It includes about 12,000 communities, 258 monasteries, 100 bishops, 12,500 clergymen. The flock of the UOC is many millions of Ukrainian citizens. These people can hardly believe that the Moscow Patriarchate damages someone.

By and large, it is strange to hear from the mouth of the Orthodox patriarch the rhetoric inherent in the Ukrainian national radicals. The term “Ukrainian nation”, not “people” or “society,” is now increasingly associated with the excesses of nationalist groups that seize churches, beat their parishioners and threaten priests. Why does Patriarch Bartholomew use such expressions? To emphasize that those who do not share such radicalism are not embraced by the “Ukrainian nation”?

By and large, it is strange to hear from the mouth of the Orthodox patriarch the rhetoric inherent in the Ukrainian national radicals.

There is enough falsehood only in the title. Let us move on to the body of the interview.

As a lead-in, Patriarch Bartholomew decided to make a short excursion into history and explain how the Orthodox Church appeared in Rus:

“As is known, the Ecumenical Patriarchate after the Baptism of Prince Vladimir and the Kiev state in 988 founded the Kiev Metropolis. The Kiev Metropolis was canonically related to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, even after the creation of the Moscow Patriarchate in 1589. After the liberation of the Ukrainian lands from the Mongolian yoke in 1685, the Moscow Patriarch Joachim (1674-1690) invaded the eparchies of the Kiev Metropolis, which, as we have said, canonically belonged to the Ecumenical Patriarchate, and elected Bishop Gideon the Metropolitan of Kiev. Thus, the 700-year-old church system of the Kiev Metropolis, which operated since 988, was changed by the coup. This happened in violation of the sacred and holy canons in favor of the Moscow Patriarchate and to the detriment of the Church of Constantinople.”

Let us skip an obvious blunder about the end of the Mongolian yoke in 1685. Patriarch Bartholomew may well be unaware that for northeastern Rus the Mongol-Tatar yoke ended in 1480, while for southwestern Rus (present-day Ukraine) – about 130-150 years earlier, as the Ukrainian lands entered the Grand Duchy of Lithuania.

As for the election and ordination of the Kiev Metropolitan Gideon (Sviatopolk-Chetvertinsky) by the Moscow Patriarch Joachim, this action was totally approved by Patriarch Dionysius of Constantinople and his Synod, as well as the subsequent transfer of the Kiev Metropolis to the Russian Orthodox Church. Can this act, approved by the Patriarchate of Constantinople, be called an invasion then? And the reason why Metropolitan Gideon was ordained to lead the Kiev See was that it was claimed by Lvov Bishop Joseph (Shumliansky), who publicly declared his intention to accept the union if elected to the Kiev See, in which he was supported by the Polish king.

And then his All Holiness stoops to outright lies:

“Despite this fact, the Kiev Metropolis was never canonically transferred to the Moscow Patriarchate. There is not a single official document confirming such subordination or concession by the Church of Constantinople. The famous letters of the Ecumenical Patriarch Dionysius IV only gave a canonical permission to the Moscow Patriarch to appoint the Kiev Metropolitan, who at the same time remained subordinate to the Patriarch of Constantinople.”

How come it was not transmitted? And how come there is no document thereof? There is! There are documents and there are phrases in these documents, expressly indicating that the Kiev Metropolis was transferred to the Russian Church. We will cite only the main documents that were used to formalize the transfer of the Kiev Metropolis.

Here is a quote from the letter of Patriarch Dionysius of Constantinople:

“The petition of the great tsars and Orthodox rulers of Moscow, our beloved sons of the Lord, blessed and exalted, was resolved by all the holy bishops' council and our beloved brothers and co-ministers in the Holy Spirit. Let the Metropolitan of Kiev henceforth be subordinate to the holy patriarchal Moscow throne and when there is a need to ordain the metropolitan in this eparchy — may he be ordained by the patriarchate in a blessed great city of Moscow.”

Below is a quote from another letter of the same Patriarch Dionysius of Constantinople:

“We have considered this case with the whole council of most eminent metropolitans and our most beloved brethren and fellow servants in the Holy Spirit. It seemed to us not only well-reasoned but also very commendable and surprising. We laid it out in our conciliar patriarchal letters and wrote in the code of the Great Church of Christ, which declare that blessed Patriarch of Moscow and All Russia, Mr. Joachim, our beloved brother and co-minister in the Holy Spirit, henceforth has the right to ordain the Kiev metropolitan, who shall be elected in accordance with the ecclesiastic charter. The future patriarchs also have the right to elect the Kiev metropolitan. In the same way, the Kiev Metropolis shall be subordinated to the Holy See of Moscow. And let all the hierarchs, both present and future, honor their elder and primate, patriarch of Moscow, since they receive ordination from him.”

Below is a clarification of Patriarch Dionysius that the Metropolitan of Kiev is not only ordained by the Moscow Patriarch, but also subject to the latter’s judgment:

 “We have transferred this metropolis to the most blessed Patriarch of Moscow, who has the right to perform an unhindered ordination of the metropolitan of this eparchy according to the custom of that place, and his election at the general council of the eparchy, pursuant to our conciliar letters. May His Beatitude have the right to ordain the Metropolitan of Kiev without any hindrance, and may the Metropolitan obey to the judgement of the Patriarch of Moscow according to the ecclesiastical ruling.” 

Patriarch Dionysius speaks not of himself, but on behalf of the whole Council of the Church of Constantinople.

Further, Patriarch Bartholomew states: “From then until April 2018, when the Ecumenical Patriarchate decided to grant autocephaly to the Ukrainian Church, many attempts were made to obtain Ukraine’s church independence from Russia, but none of them was successful, for which the Moscow Patriarchate bears complete responsibility".

Question – who made those attempts to “obtain the church independence of Ukraine from Russia”? And to whom did the Russian Orthodox Church have to give independence?

There were not many attempts, as Patriarch Bartholomew claims, but only two. The first was made in 1917 and the following years, which was initiated by the Third All-Ukrainian Military Congress. This initiative was rejected by the Church itself. It was not supported by any bishop, but was supported by the authorities represented by the Central Rada, the Directory and, oddly enough, the Bolsheviks. The number of supporters of this autocephaly was very small and their reputation among believers was rather dirty. When Mikhail (Yermakov), the legitimate Metropolitan of Kiev, was offered to ordain bishops for this “autocephalous Church” and submitted the appropriate candidatures, he replied, “I don’t ordain vipers to be bishops.”

According to Patriarch Bartholomew, the Russian Church should have ignored the opinion of the entire episcopate, the clergy and believers in the territory of the then Ukraine and bestowed autocephaly to the Third All-Ukrainian Military Congress?

The excesses of autocephalous adepts of that time reached the point that, not being able to attract any bishop to their side, they blasphemously “ordained” their “hierarchy” with the help of the relics of Holy Martyr Macarius, Metropolitan of Kiev.

The second attempt to obtain autocephaly was the “Filaret” schism of 1992. At that time, not a single ruling bishop, not a single monastery, not a single religious institution supported the idea of autocephaly. Nor was it supported by the absolute majority of the UOC communities. According to Patriarch Bartholomew, the Russian Orthodox Church should have turned a blind eye to this and bestowed autocephaly to the former Kiev Metropolitan Filaret?

Speaking about the “restoration” of canonical rank for Filaret Denisenko and Makary Maletich, Patriarch Bartholomew recognized them both as bishops: “On October 11, 2018, the Synod of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, after continual requests from Filaret and Makary, reinstated two leaders of canonical groups as canonical, recognizing their hierarchy, but not their rank. This means that Filaret is no longer the Kiev patriarch, while former Metropolitan of Kiev Makary is not the archbishop of Lvov, but rather a former Lvov archbishop.”

Firstly, the Patriarchate of Constantinople did not have any canonical right to “reinstate” the schismatics. And secondly, how can Makary be an archbishop or a metropolitan if before his backsliding into schism he was just a priest? Filaret was canonically ordained bishop at one time, true, but Makary, if “reinstated”, can only be a priest but not a bishop.

After this, Patriarch Bartholomew declared that "the two ecclesiastical jurisdictions of Filaret and Makary are united under the spiritual leadership of the Ecumenical Patriarchate". This association is actually a fiction (at least for the time being), which is evidenced both by the Unified State Register of Legal Entities of Ukraine and “honorary patriarch” Filaret Denisenko. Both the UOC KP and the UAOC existed as legal entities and continue to exist.

Then Patriarch Bartholomew produced quite an absurd passage. He called his own lawless interference in the affairs of another Local Church ... "God's blessing": "We consider it a great blessing from God that the Ecumenical Patriarchate managed to restore the canonicity of the whole multi-million nation that was outside the Church for no dogmatic reasons."

First, how is it possible to “restore the canonicity of an entire multimillion nation” if there is a canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church in Ukraine? If it comes to that, then we can talk about the “restoration” of dissenters from the UOC KP and the UAOC, but not the “whole multi-million nation”.

And secondly, how did Phanar actually “restore” canonicity? Did it accept the repentance of the UOC KP and the UAOC of the sin of a split? Or at least initiated some kind of trial? No. It just turned around and "restored". Have you committed a mortal sin of schism? Well, no worries, now we will assume that you are righteous again! I’ve signed the corresponding paper, ok?

Patriarch Bartholomew called his own lawless interference in the affairs of another Local Church ... "God's blessing".

And the argument that the schismatics were “outside the Church for no dogmatic reason” is very ambiguous. The dogma of the unity of the Church is one of the main Orthodox beliefs and is included in the Creed: “I believe in One, Holy, Catholic and Apostolic Church”. The split is the defiance of this basic dogma.

Patriarch Bartholomew considers his incursion in the affairs of other Local Churches to be lawful and justifies it with the canons of the Church: “For the next years, the Ecumenical Patriarchate, guided by sacred canons (including the 9th, 17th and 28th canons of the 4th Ecumenical Council, the 36th Canon of Trullas Council and 1 canon of the Council of 879/880, which was held in the church of St. Sophia in Constantinople) ....”

We have already examined the issue of canons in detail. Here we will just give the main conclusion arising from the analysis of the Sacred Canons of the Church: “The Rules adopted by the Ecumenical Councils do not give the Patriarch of Constantinople any authority over other Local Churches. Moreover, they, quite clearly, determine the position of the Patriarch of Constantinople in the Orthodox world by purely political circumstances.”

The political circumstances are no longer the same as in the first millennium, when Constantinople was the capital of a vast Christian empire. Today, the Patriarchate of Constantinople is a subject of Muslim Turkey, does not have its own flock on the territory of this state, and is forced to live on money from the United States and to comply with the requirements of the State Department, even if they contradict the teachings of the Church, sacred canons, history and common sense.

Finally, perhaps the most cynical and rude fib from Patriarch Bartholomew is the assertion that the split has been healed in Ukraine and the unity of the Church has been restored: “Hence, the crucial factor that made the Ecumenical Patriarchate grant autocephaly to Ukraine is healing of the split and restoration of church unity.”

Back in 2016, Archbishop of Phanar Job (Getcha) during his visit to Ukraine passionately assured everyone that Constantinople would never create another ecclesiastical jurisdiction in our country, since the parallel structure would not heal the schism, but only exacerbate it.

And now Patriarch Bartholomew declares that church unity has been restored. What is it – ignorance, blindness, or contempt for objective reality? After all, everyone sees that there is no unity; moreover, there is no cohesion even among members of the OCU!

The Ukrainian Orthodox Church still exists. She didn’t unite with anyone, didn’t disappear anywhere, moreover – She hasn’t changed at all – She still has more than 12,000 communities. Even if for a moment we imagine that the OCU is the canonical Church, then in this case there is no church unity either for we can see just a parallel structure – the very one that Phanar was not going to create.

Of course, one can merely fell sorry for Patriarch Bartholomew. The political conditions in which Phanar is living today are very difficult. But this fact does not at all justify the lawlessness that Constantinople has committed in Ukraine. Nor does it justify those persecutions of the UOC by the state and national radicals this lawlessness has eventuated. Nor does it justify the failure of the policy, pursued by the Constantinople Patriarchate in Ukraine.

Nevertheless, this failure is becoming more and more obvious. The brainchild of Phanar, OCU, has never been recognized by any of the Local Churches. In the OCU itself there are rows and an open disgraceful struggle for power. Its leaders accuse each other of working for Moscow. The UOC KP and the UAOC turned out not to be dissolved at all. The canonical Ukrainian Orthodox Church is exposed to open violence and looting. All these are grievous implications of the decisions of the “Mother Church” of Constantinople.

What is most disappointing about the interview with Patriarch Bartholomew is that, for all the clarity of both the anti-canonical nature of his actions in Ukraine and their bitter consequences, he does not want to admit his mistake and, if possible, correct it, but instead he is getting even more entrenched in his delusions and falsehood.

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